Archive for November, 2010

Ode to HMIe

November 20, 2010 1 comment

Dear Mister/Madam HMIe,

We think you are stupid. Why? Because we think that having our paperwork in order (for once), delivering special lessons, decorating the walls with student work and generally putting on a show for your visit will make you think that we’re good, or maybe very good, or maybe even excellent. We know that you know that we do this, but we still do it.

When you walk in the door and smell a faint whiff of fresh paint, that was for you. When you leaf through a perfectly presented set of assessments and beautifully crafted feedback, that was for you. When you observe a wonderfully engaging lesson and watch enthused learners hang on every word of their lecturer, that was for you.

You are privileged. It’s not like that the rest of the time. But that’s okay, because we know that you know that we know this.

So, if you happen to be in my class this coming week and I glance at you with a knowing look, you know what it means ūüėČ

Categories: teaching

Ah Cannae Draw

November 13, 2010 1 comment

This is one of the most common phrases I hear from students. “Ah cannae draw”, which translates from Scots to English as “I cannot draw”.

My immediate response is “Of course you can, you can use a pencil or a pen or whatever and you can make a mark on some paper. What you really mean is that you don’t LIKE what you draw”.

And therein lies a big problem. Many people CAN draw, but with the skills of a 5 year old, and they see their drawings with the perception of an adult.

Creativity, so we’re told, is an essential skill sought by employers and it’s also a fundamental element of Curriculum for Excellence. Drawing is a highly creative skill, essential (in my opinion) to planning, designing and communicating. Yet, despite its importance, it is poorly taught at school, or worse still, is actively discouraged.

The truth is that we start to draw from an early age, from the first time we are given crayons and find, much to our parents’ horror, that it makes marks on the wallpaper. At Nursery and Primary School drawing is a common activity, at least until around half way through Primary, when writing, maths and other activities begin to take precedence. Then at High School pupils probably attend one Art lesson per week, and by fourth year the majority do no artwork at all.

In this time¬†artistic¬†skills are slowly eroded, skills that we learn in our early years are forgotten and left¬†unpractised, until suddenly we’re grown up and “cannae draw”.

Universities and employers have long decried the writing and communication skills of current students and young employees, even though these skills are taught continuously through Primary and Secondary education. So, imagine what their drawing skills are like, having been pushed aside for many years in favour of these other ‘important’ skills.

So, dear teacher, please don’t discourage drawing. Use it in all your subjects. Illustrate a passage from Shakespeare, make maps in geography, paint portraits of historical figures, create pictures for nouns in French. Keep this skill alive, encourage creativity, meet important criteria for Curriculum for Excellence, and save your students a lot of heartache when they go to college or university or employment.

Finally, remember, man was able to draw long before he could speak or write.

Cave Painting, we don't know who made it. They couldn't tell us or write their name back then.

Categories: teaching

Future planning and peer reviewing

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

This week I started some activities with my students to get them to plan for their future and become more critical of their own work.

Future Planning

I developed a questionnaire called ‘Become a better designer‘ which contains a number of questions that can be answered with yes/no. The questions are designed to make the students aware of activities they could do to make them better designers and also improve their employability.

Some sample questions are:

  1. Do you have a portfolio that you could show at short notice if a job offer came up tomorrow?
  2. Do you have a website or blog, and is it up to date?
  3. Do you use social media networks for building your own personal learning network / network of business contacts?

After the questions is a table for creating an action plan, with a column for action points and a column for a target date. Once the students answer the questions they then write some action points and set themselves some targets for completion.

The necessity of planning for their future was highlighted this week when a job offer DID come into the college and several students had to hastily pull together a portfolio at the last minute.

Procrastination – the thief of opportunity!

Peer Review

Also this week the students are preparing for peer reviewing their colleagues work. Although we often do this in critique sessions, this time we’re using a form that asks the student to self-review their own work before it is handed to a classmate to review. The peer review is confidential (unless the peer reviewer is happy to make it public) and they may comment on any aspect of the work and also decide whether it is sufficient work to¬†achieve¬†a pass. Finally the work is reviewed by an assessor and an assessment decision made.

I’m hoping this will encourage the students to take more responsibility for the quality of their work and spur them on to try and do more than the minimum for a pass.